Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 72(1) February 2022

Book Review

The Mystery of Christian Marriage through the Ages:
The Scriptures and the First Thousand Years.

by Anna Silvas, Cascade Books
Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thavasathan

Book CoverThe author of this well argued book is an expert on Patristic theology. The book is based on a course the author gave at the once flourishing John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family. The work is aimed at the non-specialist and is a relatively easy read.

Apart from the teachings of Scripture and the Fathers, one cannot but help notice the powerful influence of John Paul II at work. The book is historical insofar as it discusses man and woman "from the Beginning." It is argued that the capacity to love and be fruitful is natural to man and woman. Marriage is a natural institution, a life-long union of one man and one woman.

The work is profoundly scriptural. As the author puts it, Israel was called to be faithful to its covenant in the same way that husband and wife are called to be faithful to each other. To put it another way, scripture regards adultery as akin to idolatry, a turning away from the one, true God. When we move from the Old Testament to the New, we see fulfilment, not reversal. Jesus famously corrects the hardness of our hearts. At the summit, we see the Holy Family.

The author describes how the Early Church trans-formed the pagan culture surrounding it. We too must surely have the courage to do the same. The indissolubility of marriage has always been taught by the Church. It was taught by Jesus. It was taught by the Early Church. The author cites asecond century work, The Shepherd of Hermas, which teaches that a husband who divorces his wife is not free to marry again.

Sadly, it was what is now known as the Eastern Orthodox churches that broke away from tradition. Under pressure from the state, people were allowed to re-marry after divorce.

In summary, an excellent defence of the constant teachings of the Church on marriage through the ages.